Orvis Fly Fishing
How Well Can Fish Hear Or See Me?
Fish in general are not the smartest animals on the planet. However, they do a few things extremely well, like selecting food, finding good habitat and cover to feed from, and displaying an uncanny ability to flee from a perceived threat. You better believe that a fish can see you, feel you and hear you as you crash through streamside brush and make tromping and splashy footsteps through the water. In fact, trout specifically have lateral lines on their sides that enable them to feel motion and the direction it's coming from, far beyond the ability of a human to do so. This is why a trout may spook far away from you, even when you may feel like you are far enough away from it to avoid doing so.
What traits do fish have that enable them to know I'm here?
What can I do to avoid being seen or heard?
This question is the crux of why any of this is important to anglers. Stealth, especially when stalking fish, fishing spring creeks, or fishing to rising fish, is crucial. When fish are rising, they are at their most vulnerable and therefore can be extremely wary of any movement and differences in their natural habitat. A lesson can be taken from competition fly anglers, who often wear kneepads because they will kneel in the water rather than stand, minimizing the ability of a fish to use their broad angle vision to spot you and spook.
Fish that are milling about in slow water or gin-clear side channels of a river are going to be far more wary than fish set up in a fast, diamond chop riffle. With this basic principle in mind, take extra caution when approaching fish in slow and glassy water. They can and will see you if you do not take care in your approach and your presentations to them. Once you're spotted and one fish spooks, they will send alarm bells to all the rest of the fish in the spot and your chances of catching a spooked fish are zero. This represents a challenge for sure, but nothing compares to fooling a fish that's one mistake away from spooking. Take your time, go slow, and you may be rewarded with a quality fish in return.
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